- Hardcover: 271 pages
- Publisher: Buccaneer Books (October 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568497067
- ISBN-13: 978-1568497068
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (466 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Hardcover – October 1, 1998
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/>Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a series of essays that combines scientific observation, philosophy, daily thoughts, and deeper introspection with glorious prose. On the surface, Annie Dillard is simply exploring a place called Tinker Creek and its inhabitants: "It's a good place to live; there's lots to think about." But as her observations range well beyond the landscape into worlds of esoteric fact and metaphysical insight, each paragraph becomes suffused with images and ideas. Whether she is quoting the Koran or Albert Einstein, describing the universe of an Eskimo shaman or the mating of luna moths, Annie Dillard offers up her own knowledge with reverence for her material and respect for her reader. She observes her surroundings faithfully, intimately, sharing what can be shared with anyone willing to wait and watch with her. In the end, however, "No matter how quiet we are, the muskrats stay hidden. Maybe they sense the tense hum of consciousness, the buzz from two human beings who in silence cannot help but be aware of each other, and so of themselves." The precision of individual words, the vitality of metaphor, the sheer profusion of sources, the vivid sensory and cerebral impressions - all combine to make Pilgrim at Tinker Creek something extravagant and extraordinary. --Great Books by Women; review by Kirsten Backstrom
From the Back Cover
“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.”--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The footage in the video is obviously not from Tinker Creek, but from my own "backyard" and surrounding areas in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I captured the images using the new Flip Ultra Video Camcorder, and edited them using Apple's iMovie. The music (perhaps a bit cheesy) was composed using samples from Apple's GarageBand software. All quotations are from Dillard's book. Enjoy!
First, the basics. Annie Dillard married a poet, earned a Master's Degree in English, and wrote her thesis on Thoreau and Walden Pond. For two years after she graduated she was writing, journaling, and painting. She then decided that in essence she should write her own take on nature, similar to Thoreau's experiences. Where Thoreau was a man out in rural Massachusetts in the mid-1800s, Dillard was a woman, over a hundred years later, in rural Roanoke, Virginia. She felt there was room enough in the world for a fresh take on natural life.
And indeed she was quite correct.
This isn't a "story" about a person starting Here and ending up There. It isn't even a series of essays, as some readers have mistakenly assumed. Instead, Dillard is clear that this is a cohesive piece, organized chronologically, building and expanding on previous experiences and then moving forward. Dillard is not only keen in her insight into what is before her, but also amazingly well read. She can find the relations between the water before her and the Eskimo traditions, between a barely visible creature and the quotes of scientists from decades ago. It's like sitting down at the side of a pond with your beloved aunt who has traveled the world, and hearing fascinating stories about how various bits of life relate to fascinating creatures far away.
The book is poetry, and one focus here is that *life* is poetry. Everything around us is beautiful and terrible and will be gone in the blink of an eye. Turn your head too quickly and it will skitter off, never to be seen again. The roiling crimson beauty of a magnificent sunset will fade into a smoky grey, and no matter how many sunsets you watch after that, none will ever be quite the same.
Is it "boring" to read about the fantastic myriad wonders that nature presents to us every day? That's an intriguing question. Somehow our world has trained us to be obsessively attentive when a movie-screen freight train barrels towards a stalled car, but to turn away uninterested when a double rainbow shimmers into existence over a lake. We stare down at our smartphone screen in dedicated frenzy when a Facebook post blings into existence, but we ignore the real live human being before us who we could learn so much from. We want a start, a middle, and an end. But nature goes on, always renewing, constantly restoring, and I think somewhere many of us have lost track of that.
So, yes, settling in with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is like settling into a favorite chair on your back porch, sipping a delicious glass of wine, and watching with fascination as the golden-winged dragonflies perform an intricate mating ritual. It is spellbinding, and soothing, and fascinating - but one has to want to slow down and pay attention. One needs to mute the TV, turn off the cell, and be willing to breathe in the natural world which is all around us.
This is a fairly easy book to read but a tough one to get through. It is simultaneously nature study, personal diary, Scripture commentary, mystical theology, field observation manual, and blank-verse poem. Annie Dillard was just age 27 when she wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and it is very much a young writer’s book, poetic and enthusiastic. Such strengths are also weaknesses: at times the poetry can be a bit ornate, and the multitude of facts can be daunting. Still, there are significant rewards in this book, if the reader, like a seasoned traveler, is willing to follow the author wherever she goes.
How far will we be going? The word “pilgrim” in the title suggests a long-distance trek to a holy place. But when we start the first chapter, we find Dillard already at a creekside cabin in Virginia , where she will stay for a year. If we’re to join her as pilgrims, we seem to at the destination without even setting out. Notice, though, that she calls her cabin an anchorite’s hermitage. Studying and writing by night, silently watching by day, she is more hermit than pilgrim. For Dillard and her readers, the journey in this book won’t be measured in miles. The road we’re on goes inward.
How strenuous is this going to be? Dillard answers this one with a story from Genesis, the one where Jacob wrestles with God on the bank of a stream. The contest goes on all night. Like Jacob, Dillard waits by a stream, and for one strenuous page after another, she wrestles with creation and its workings. We watch horrified as an outsized water bug liquefies a frog, as mother insects devour their freshly-laid eggs, as reindeer are driven mad by clouds of flies. This will not be an easy trip.
What will we see along the way? Before we can answer that, we have to confront a key fact about Creation: It may seem like an extravagant, intricate machine, set in motion and then left to run on its own; but it really resembles, once everything is examined carefully, a thought, a series of ideas made real. There is Mind behind what we see. Much of the book explores all the amazing stuff that there is in the world. Say what you will, the Creator loves variety and loves “Pizzaz.”
But what’s the reward for finishing the journey? Death is what awaits us, of course; Life seems to require it, making room for what’s next. So, what will we do when we get there, with all we’ve seen along the way of pizzaz but also of blood and destruction? Here’s Dillard in the final chapter: “I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please,’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his host at the door.”